Before Curtis Stone became the successful celebrity chef he is today, his first job, along with his brother Luke, was working in a butcher shop in Melbourne, Australia, where they grew up. Years later, it seems that both their career paths have come full circle with the recent opening of Gwen, a beautiful new butcher shop with adjacent restaurant space on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Not your ordinary meat market, Gwen focuses on implementing traditional European butchering practices on the highest quality meats, and offers everything from fancy cuts to an array of fresh and dry charcuterie options (this is definitely the spot to visit if you’re trying to assemble a stellar cheese board) plus an assortment of prepared, ready-to-cook dishes like stuffed lamb saddle. With this new opening, you can bet that chef Stone knows more about meats than ever before, so we got him to dish on his most frequently asked questions related to all things grilling.
1. What should I cook?
Before heading into the butcher, the question to ask yourself is: How much time do you have? Do you want a quick-cook meal? Or is there something you’d like to cook low and slow? Slower-to-cook cuts like ribs, brisket, a leg of lamb, or even a whole animal (for the pit masters out there) take a good amount of time to prepare and cook. For a weeknight grill fest or a casual last-minute get together, lamb cutlets, sausages, and skirt steaks are the way to go. Let your butcher know how many people you’re feeding and how much time you have, and they will able to point you in the right direction.
2. How long should I rest the meat?
Resting meat for a sufficient amount of time is important because it will help retain the natural juices and improve taste and texture. A general rule of thumb is to rest meat for half of the time it was cooked, however this may vary depending on the cooking method you apply and the particular cut. Let steaks, burgers, and other smaller cuts rest for half the time it cooked. For larger pieces, like a whole chicken or leg of lamb, let them rest for a quarter of time that they cooked.
3. What are my options when it comes to custom cuts?
If you have a burning desire to cook a particular cut of meat that is not always readily packaged and available -- say, a brisket, lamb shoulder, a whole duck, rabbit, or even a whole pig or lamb -- call your butcher a few days to a week ahead of time, so that the butcher can keep your order in mind when they are breaking down the animal, or order the whole animal for you. One custom cut I love is a beef steak called spinalis. It’s the cap of the rib eye and it cooks up ultra-tender and ultra-beefy. Any butcher worth their weight in casings will know what you mean when you ask for a spinalis steak.
4. Is it okay if I don’t buy the meat day-of?
When it comes to the actual day-of hosting, it’s likely you won’t have time to go shopping for your meat, and that’s okay. Shop ahead of time and be sure to ask the butcher how many days the meat will keep and the best way to store it.
5. What do I do with the leftovers?
Often with bigger events, I tend to over-cater them and I do that intentionally so that I have leftovers for the next day. I always say, “If you’re going to cook once, you may as well make two meals out of it.” Plus, there’s nothing better than a cold steak sandwich made with meat from the night before.